Can eating star anise protect you against swine flu? We don't know, but it's tasty.
When Egypt slaughtered its pig population to protect the country against swine flu a few weeks ago, many scientists dismissed it as an overreaction. There is no evidence eating pork gives you swine flu.
However, as NPR's Louisa Lim reports today on Morning Edition, the sweet and smoky licorice-flavored spice known as star anise may have an actual link to swine flu -- a potentially powerful one.
As a result, the price of the spice in China, where 90 percent of the world's star anise is produced, has shot up.
Turns out that an important ingredient in Tamiflu -- one of the key drugs being used to fight symptoms of the swine flu and many other flus -- is a specific acid developed from star anise called shikimic acid.
Lim reports that shoppers in China are using more star anise because the health minister Chen Zhu suggested at a news conference recently that using star anise while cooking pork would be "a very good option to deal with swine flu."
We don't know about that, but pork and star anise are an excellent flavor pairing.